Sugar cravings is tough business for many people. Many clients I see struggle with over-consuming sugar and often feel like a failure when they are unable to break the powerful sugar cycle. Our cravings for sweet tastes have physiological causes and are not created due to a lack of willpower. One of the reasons it is so difficult to break the sugar habit is because over time our brains can actually become addicted to the substance! Sugar creates pleasure and repeated consumption overstimulates the brain’s dopamine reward system. These excessive reward signals in the brain can override one's self-control. Long term overconsumption of sugar can be detrimental to your health and contribute to conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, weight gain, and premature aging.
So now that we understand the physiology of why sugar is addictive, what can we do about it?
Here are my top 5 recommendations on how to kick your sugar cravings to the curb and regain control of your brain.
1. Have a high-protein breakfast. The importance of a high-protein breakfast cannot be overemphasized. Protein helps to build and repair body tissues and produces hormones and enzymes. A high-protein breakfast will regulate your hormones and blood sugar to help you will feel more energized and ready to take on your day. Try an egg and vegetable scramble with avocado and orange slices.
2. Eat regularly. Skipping meals can set you up for undesired sugar cravings, because when you go too many hours without eating your body desires a quick fix for the energy deficit it is experiencing. To keep you from running to the vending machine for that quick fix, have a meal or snack planned approximately every 3 hours. Eating balanced meals to keep blood sugar stable is also critical (remember the protein!) at each meal and snack.
3. Choose whole foods. Whole foods offer our bodies the best nutrition and satisfaction. Packaged and processed foods tend to have a lot of added sugars to make up for lack of freshness and flavor and also tend to be void of nutrients like fiber. Fresh fruit with nuts is a balanced snack that provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber to keep you feeling fuller longer.
4. Move your body daily. Whether you enjoy walks on your lunch break, a nightly yoga class, crossfit in the mornings, or aerobics at the gym- the idea is to get more movement into your daily routine. When we move our bodies we relieve stress, anxiety, and unused energy. Exercise releases endorphins which will elevate our mood and keep our body in balance as well. Even 10 minutes of active movement a day will support a healthy mood.
5. Prioritize sleep. We often crave sugar when we need an energy lift, and let’s face it, most of us are not getting enough sleep! It is no wonder we reach for sugar-sweetened coffee beverages and soda around mid-afternoon. Our sleep-deprived brain is telling us it needs sleep, not caffeine and sugar. Making sleep a priority will do wonders for sugar cravers- aim for a minimum of 7-8 hours a night.
I'd love to hear from you. What tips have worked for you in beating sugar cravings? Please share!
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To your good health,